Health and happiness at the same time

Make a peaceful, healthy, fine-tasting Middle Eastern chickpea salad.
Issue Date: 3 August 2007

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Chickpeas: health food you can actually eat

The thing about “health” food is that most of it looks like Epol, and who knows, maybe even tastes like it too. A bowl – health food is always in a bowl – of light brown nubbly stuff that takes a lot of chewing is imbued with virtue rather than pleasure, and quite clearly no alternative at all to a rare steak, the outside dark with caramelised blood sugars, the interior red, juicy … dream on, sinners. Because here comes the noble chickpea, released from its unhappy marriage to lentils, filled with flavour and texture and what do you know – they’re good for you, too…

But first, some theory. Chickpea fans – an international grouping
numbering millions upon millions of people – prefer the fresh item. A fresh, dried
chickpea is a rough, tough customer, unchewable without extended boiling.
If this procedure isn’t to your liking, modern science has produced the widely
available canned, cooked chickpea, usually made in Israel. The choice is yours.

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To make a peaceful, healthy, fine-tasting Middle Eastern chickpea salad, you will need:

• 2 cups cooked chickpeas • 6 baby marrows, or equal amount zucchini or courgettes
• 3 cloves garlic • 1 onion • 1 carrot • 1 cup canned mealie kernels • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or shelled pistachio nuts • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice • 3 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil • A sprig of fresh mint • A pinch of ground dried chillies • 1 iceberg or 2 butter lettuce • Rosa tomatoes • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Moving on: cut the baby marrows, zucchini or courgettes into slices. Crush, peel
and mince the garlic. Peel and thinly slice the onion. Select a heavy-bottomed
stainless steel frying pan and pour in enough extra-virgin olive oil to thinly
cover the base. Bring this up to medium heat and sweat the onions and
garlic until the onions are reduced to a transparent hash.
At this point, add the sliced baby marrows and let them cook for 60 seconds.
Season lightly with freshly ground coarse black pepper and salt. Remove from
the heat and reserve in a covered bowl. Time for the chickpeas. If you’ve
boiled them yourself, drain them into a colander. If in a can, drain and
discard the liquid. In either case, place the drained chickpeas in a bowl.
Clean and shred or grate the carrot. Add the cup of drained
mealie kernels, the carrot, the pine nuts or shelled pistachios or
both, and pour in the lemon juice and two to three tablespoons
of extra-virgin olive oil. Add a quarter teaspoon of finely minced
garlic, the pinch of dried chilli, and a couple of torn mint leaves. Mix
gently, then pour the onion and marrows over the chickpeas.
Arrange a bed of lettuce in a serving bowl, and spoon the
chickpea and cooked marrow mixture into the middle. Garnish
with a couple of sprigs of mint and rosa tomatoes and adjust
the salt and pepper seasoning to your liking. Serve this to your
fans, who will marvel at the joyous combination of textures, colours
and flavours. What a blast man, what a blast! – David Basckin |fw